Saturday, November 8, 2008

Better Than Expected

Kobie and I woke to the sight of snow falling out of our window. It was disheartening for sure, but we had already decided the night before that regardless of what the weather was, we would push on. The morning was bad enough just walking to get breakfast and we weren’t outside for more than 30 seconds. We saw people with heavy winter coats, hats and scarves. Sitting over breakfast, Kobie said something to the effect of, “this is like surgery, I just wasn’t to get the day over with”. Kobie loves his profession as a SCUBA instructor, so he doesn’t know that feeling of dread that some people have every weekday morning when getting up to go to work.

We did have to get out on the river and make some distance. If it was five miles, or only even one, we would have gotten out of town and made at least some progress. We just needed to survive the day.

Corey, the Coast Guard fellow who dropped us off at he motel met us for breakfast. We had a chance to chat before he was kind enough to swing by the supermarket then drive us back down to the Coast Guard station where our kayaks were stored.

We set off from the marina and made our way back into the main part of the river. When we got out in the open, the wind wasn’t nearly as bad as we had expected, nor was the cold. We had expected the absolute worst, so getting just plain bad was like a win for us. Better still was that the wind had shifted ever so slightly as did the direction of the river. The combination of the two was just enough to have the wind coming from behind us somewhat.

While having the wind at our backs is preferable for obvious reasons, there is also reduced net effect on the surface of the water as we are going down river. If the river is flowing at five miles per hour and the wind blows upriver at 20 miles per hour, the net effect on the water surface would be like having a 25 mile an hour wind. Conversely, if the wind is blowing down river at the same 20 miles per hour, but the river is flowing in the same direction at five miles per hour, the net is only 15. A 15 mile per hour wind has a much different effect on roughing up the surface of the water as a 25 mile per hour wind

While paddling I wouldn’t say I was hot, but I was certainly warm enough. I used the old plastic bags on the hands trick to try and keep them as dry as possible. My fingers are usually the first part of my body to get wet and cold while paddling. As expected.

Kobie and I remarked several times how pleased the way things worked out for us the last couple of days; the decision to stay and extra day and all. And after getting a few miles under us, Kobie commented that “we will do more than just survive today”.

It was a real mixed bag for the day. There were numerous barges tied off at the sides of the river, but also a handful that were plying the river either up or downstream. There was one instance where we noticed a barge coming from behind us while we were paddling in the middle of the channel. We really picked up the pace to get out of the way so as not to be run down. The barges, even those running with the current, move quite slowly or seemingly so. They hardly move faster than we do. The current was moving quite well which kept us moving at just shy of five miles per hour. The barge couldn’t have been doing more than seven.

By late afternoon we managed 18 miles, far more distance than we though we might cover in our shortened day. We ended our day at a place called Scott Island. It was another one of those times where the campsite was less than ideal, but it was good enough. The temperature quickly dropped in the late afternoon and we were also much colder as we were damp and no longer in our enclosed kayak cockpits. We set up our tents and immediately turned our attention to starting a fire. Lighting a campfire seems to me a much different affair when being lit out of necessity than out of pleasure. While we wanted a fire to cook our sausages, we needed a fire to dry off and warm up. It really didn’t help that it had rained and snowed for the last two days. While no snow had accumulated on the ground, everything was wet. We foraged under logs for dry tinder, but had to use a little toilet paper to get a fire going. It took a solid quarter of an hour nursing our little flame until we let the fire tend to itself. While we are in no real danger of freezing to death as we could climb in our sleeping bags, it is still a good feeling knowing we were able to start a fire in foul conditions with nothing more than a little toilet paper and a bunch of wet wood.

Sitting by our warm campfire made me think about my plan to finish the Appalachian Trail hike in March. I would be hiking; I would be solo; I would be breaking a path through the snow and it would be much colder than it was now. While I don’t mind those things as they are all part of the fun (or to some people misery), I would leave less room for make mistakes. The trail is a rather desolate place in the winter with the exception of the ski mountains that the trail crosses in Vermont. I would have to pick up a few gear items for the hike and my base pack weight would be significantly more than the seven and a half pounds I got away with in the summer.

After cooking our sausages we took to drying our gear. We took everything that had so much as a drop of water on it and set it out near the fire. While some of the gear will get wet shortly after setting off in the morning, it is still nicer to put on dry gear.

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